Aristotle’s Guide:

to basic human decency bettering yourself!

STORY TIME: Take a cat stuck up a tree; and the tree is on fire; on a railroad track; and there’s a train heading straight for it!

When it comes to decisions, there’s two theories of approach:

  • Deontology: your sense of duty, your moral obligation.


  • Consequentialism: the morality but solely based on its consequences. We’ve all heard the phrase “when the end justifies the memes

The Deontologist would say that it could be your duty as a passer-by, maybe you own the cat, maybe you’re a firefighter! Surely it’s morally right to save a soft, warm puddy-cat.

The Consequentialist may agree, but say that the outcome of one cat being saved could jeopardise you, standers by, the people on the train – and what about that tree!? The end result is much more dangerous if you go in.


Nice arguments.

But not so nice. You see, whilst the cat is stuck up the burning tree with the train heading straight this way – these moral approaches are still bickering off to the side on what’s the moral thing to do! Which isn’t how it works in real life.

We have human virtues. This is when your character – whether you be loyal, courageous, introverted, lazy – makes a quick decision for you. Someone who carries the virtues of fit, kind, or brave may immediately decide to run in and save the cat; whilst the deontologist and consequentialist decide the morality later.

The saving grace is – is that if someone holds their human virtues to be good things, then their immediate decision is likely to follow suit.

Aristotle tells us that we need all three to be moral and a good person in our life. We need to think about our sense of duty, what the consequences to our actions will be, and virtues that we want in our character when making a decision.

Have too little, or even too much, of these three and you might just find yourself in a sticky situation. Because sure, there’s such a thing as too much courage.